Child support guidelines in Georgia and other states often change by legislative action. State governments enact child support guidelines designed to protect the rights of children and parents.
New 2007 Child Support Guidelines
In March of 2006, the Georgia legislature made substantial changes to the proposed revision of the child support guidelines. The law as passed made the following changes from the revision that was passed in 2005, which was never put into effect:
(1) The effective date was changed from July 1, 2006 to January 1, 2007.
(2) The automatic parenting time reduction of the child support obligation was eliminated.
(3) The right to seek modification, except in certain cases, has been limited to those situations where there has been a substantial change in the financial circumstances of either parent, or the child. There is no longer the right to seek modification based only upon the change in the guidelines.
(4) The right to a direct appeal of the trial court decision was eliminated, and we remain subject to the discretionary appeals process.
(5) The new law provides a schedule of base child support amounts according to the total income of both parents, which amount is then allocated to each parent by virtue of that parent’s share of the total income, and adjusted for other expenses.
In Georgia, both parents are obligated to provide for the support of a child until the child reaches the age of 18, or graduates from high school, whichever is later, but no later than age 20. There is no obligation to support a child in college or post-graduate studies. However, agreements reached in settlement negotiations and included in the final decree of divorce will be enforced by the courts as if it were law.
Child Support Calculation and Adjustment
The total monthly income of the two parents is applied to the schedule of the basic child support obligation table. You may download and view the MS Excel calculator by clicking here: Child Support Obligation Table
The share of this obligation for each parent is determined by prorating the number on this table according to the percentage of each parent’s income to the total income.
Application of these guidelines creates a presumption that the amount of child support is correct. The court must make specific findings on the record that there is sufficient reason to vary from these guidelines.
Some of the statutory factors which the court may consider in making a determination to adjust the guidelines are:
- Pre-existing child support orders still being paid for other children
- The cost of health insurance and work related child care
- Self-employment taxes
- Social Security benefits paid for children
- Extraordinary medical costs
- Extraordinary educational costs
- One party’s other support obligations to another household
- Income that should be imputed to a party because of suppression of income
- In-kind income for the self-employed, such as reimbursed meals or a company car
- Other support a party is providing or will be providing, such as payment of a mortgage
- A party’s own extraordinary needs, such as medical expenses
- In-kind contribution of either parent
- Extraordinary travel expenses to exercise visitation or shared physical custody
- Parenting time exercised by the non-custodial parent
Application and Modification
The child support guidelines are the same whether the support obligation arises out of a divorce or a paternity action. The courts will also use these guidelines in interstate child support cases.
Child support may be modified, up or down, whenever there is a substantial change in income or financial circumstances of either party, or the needs of the children. A modification action may be filed by either party at any time after the divorce or initial final order of support. Another modification action may not be filed by the same party until 2 years have passed from the previous final order on modification, regardless of the outcome.
As with other financial issues in a divorce, either party may choose to have the permanent determination of child support decided by a jury, whether it is the initial determination or a modification. A judge, sitting without a jury, may make a temporary award of support, or temporary modification, while the parties are waiting for a jury trial.
A Word of Caution
Under Georgia law, an obligation of child support continues until child support modifications are formalized by a formal order of the court. The parties cannot agree to change it without court intervention, and it will not change or terminate when a child goes to live with the other parent. There is no statute of limitation on the collection of past due support, and interest will be added at the statutory rate from the time each payment becomes due.